Retailers are finding the combination of video surveillance and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology not only improves inventory protection but can provide insights into customer preferences and buying habits.
RFID uses wireless radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object. The tag contains a unique serial number and is embedded with a transmitter and receiver. As the object moves through a store, an RFID reader tracks it. The tag can be read from several feet away and does not need to be within direct sight of the reader.
RFID has become an industry standard to prevent merchandise loss. In addition to tracking inventory movement through a store, it updates inventory systems when an item is purchased and triggers alarm readers placed by exits if unpurchased merchandise passes through. In 2016, more than 8 billion RFID tags were sold worldwide, with 60% being used in the retail market.
When used alone, RFID cannot link an item to a particular customer. RFID becomes much more versatile when combined with video technology such as closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. This arrangement enables retailers to track costly inventory items more closely and view customers’ movements as they handle merchandise. If a theft should occur, CCTV video files and RFID tags can be used as evidence for prosecution.
An added benefit of combining RFID and video technology is it can provide retailers with insights and information on customer buying habits, preferences and shopping patterns. The technology can be used with facial recognition software to identify shoppers’ reactions to products and displays. It analyzes facial characteristics in video images to approximate demographic information such as age, gender, ethnic or social group, helping retailers gain a better understanding of which groups respond to particular products.
Additional customer insight can be gleaned if the system is linked to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Comments can be monitored for mention of the store or particular merchandise from the shoppers’ use of the store’s Wi-Fi network, with customer permission.
When RFID and video systems are tied to customer loyalty and rewards programs, retailers can present shoppers with targeted coupons and offers while on the premises.
 “RFID Trends: What’s Ahead in 2017, Part 1,” by Jennifer Zaino, RFID Journal, Jan. 8, 2017. Available at: https://www.rfidjournal.com/purchase-access?type=Article&id=15491&r=%2Farticles%2Fview%3F15491
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